Psychomotor skills are primarily movement tasks that lead individuals to learn about their environments. Individuals progress through three stages as they learn them. The cognitive stage is the first and is characterized by awkward movement. In the associative stage, movements are more automatic for individuals but they are not yet permanent. Refinement through practice occurs during the autonomic stage.

These stages are most commonly associated with children as they acquire psychomotor skills. Industrial-organizational psychology, however, also deals with these skills, relation to how people within businesses and organizations learn how to do new things.

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The Psychomotor Domain

Bloom’s Taxonomy of hierarchical models that classify learning objectives indicates that seven basic skills are part of the psychomotor domain. Listed from the simplest to the most complex, they are perception or awareness, the readiness to act, guided response, basic proficiency, complex overt response, adaptatio, and origination. All skills use some physical movement and coordination and require practice. Progress is measured by speed, distance, precision or techniques of execution.

Perception involves non-verbal cues, such as learning that a stove is hot. Readiness to act involves motivation and the recognition of one’s own abilities and limitations. Guided response simply means the ability to follow and act on directions. If you drive a car or operate a computer you are proficient in that skill. Complex overt response means an individual has become an expert at something such as playing a musical instrument or playing a sport. Adaptation takes expertise to the next level by coming up with unique responses to unexpected situations. Origination involves coming up with new patterns based on highly developed skills. An example is creating an original figure skating routine.

Psychomotor Taxonomy Developed in the 1970s

Bloom’s Taxonomy dates from a 1956 publication by Benjamin Bloom written along with colleague David Krathwohl. In The Second Principle, Leslie Owen, Ed D., notes that theories on the Psychomotor taxonomies developed out of the work of the two authors on the cognitive and affective taxonomies, the latter of which was developed in 1964. The work underwent a major revision in 2001.

The psychomotor domain is sometimes referred to as the kinesthetic domain and differs significantly from a purely cognitive learning domain where the psychomotor skill set was first described. Physical activities used to support either cognitive or affective functions are not skill that may be labeled purely psychomotor. To label skills as psychomotor, they must clearly have an educational intention whereby some type of growth can occur with repetition.

How These Skills are Used in Industrial-Organizational Psychology

The Society of Industrial and Organization Psychology infers that these skills may be used to gauge measurement in several different areas of business such as:

  • Recruitment, selection and placement
  • Training and development
  • Performance seasurement
  • Motivation and reward systems
  • Organizational development
  • Quality of work life
  • Structure of work

As we continue to learn about how our brains learn and retain information, those in the field of industrial-organizational psychology will continue to apply how psychomotor skills can enhance memory and aid in the acquisition of new business skills.